Mike Brey has long been a coach known for getting the most out of his players. Saturday was no different, but the Irish were unable to knock off the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels. With the loss, the Irish drop to 13-5 overall and 3-2 in ACC play. The Irish were without both Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell for the contest.
With Notre Dame down 67-66 with 37 seconds left, Irish guard TJ Gibbs corralled a rebound off a Tar Heel missed and was fouled. Gibbs went to the line for a 1-and-1 and knocked down two free throws to put the Irish up 68-67.
On the ensuing Tar Heel possession, the Irish were able to deny Carolina forward Luke Maye. After jump ball gave the ball to Carolina with 10.9 seconds left, Joel Berry inbounded the ball to forward Sterling Manley, who fired the ball toward the rim. Berry stepped in bounds, rebounded the ball, and was fouled by Irish guard TJ Gibbs.
An 89% free throw shooter, Berry went to the line and knocked down both shots, giving North Carolina a 69-68 lead with 7.1 seconds left.
After a pair of timeouts, TJ Gibbs took the inbound pass the length of the floor. Gibbs’ initial try missed, but came back to him on the rebound. His second attempt him the backboard, hit the rim, and hung on the back iron for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, the shot fell harmlessly to the floor, along with the Irish players who were ready to erupt in celebration.
Ultimately, the loss hurts for the Irish, but the overall performance was encouraging, as the Irish await the return of injured point guard Matt Farrell.
But it didn’t seem like the Irish were without the grit and the toughness that the senior point guard brings to the floor.
The Irish were able to hang around in the game by controlling the glass. Brey’s team out-rebounded the Tar Heels 45 to 37 for the night, including a 20 to 13 advantage on the offensive glass. The advantage allowed the Irish to overcome a 34.8% shooting performance from the field.
The Irish were lead by Gibbs, Martinas Geben, and Nikola Djogo, all three of whom are adjusting to expanded roles in Colson and Farrell’s absence.
Gibbs lead the Irish with 19 points, while Geben chipped in 14 and Djogo, who had scored just 19 points all season, added 12.
While the Irish are certainly at a disadvantage without the likes of Colson and Farrell, it seems clear that the Irish will continue to be competitive as ACC play rolls along.